The term Direct Marketing is reputed to have been used for the first time in the 1960s, by Lester Wunderman. For many years direct marketing was synonymous with direct mail and mail-order, probably because these were the most common approaches utilized by direct marketers to sell their products. However, today's direct marketers have a plethora of approaches at their disposal including direct mail, telemarketing, direct response television advertising, door-to-door and the Internet among others. Direct marketers are not confined to the important, though mundane, objective of generating sales.
Direct marketing means there is no intermediary between your organization and your customer it's a one-to-one relationship. It covers everything from coupon response advertising, e-commerce, door-to-door selling (heaven forbid) through to telemarketing and direct mail. Direct marketing always aims to achieve an immediate quantifiable response. Thus its effect can be assessed in a short time period. This distinguishes it from most high profile advertising whose major purpose is to build a brand image that is assumed to result in sales at some time in the future. Direct Marketing is low cost and low risk in the sense that no significant spend has to be made before obtaining proven test results. The cost per 'theoretic' contact may be higher than for mass advertising; but the wastage on uninterested contacts is much less. Each direct marketing promotion provides data that can be used to improve performance of the next. A regular program of tests will not always give positive results, but it will help the learning process for the future.
Direct marketing consists of direct connections with carefully targeted individual consumers to both obtain an immediate response and cultivate lasting customer relationships. The concept of direct marketing overriding traditional marketing mix boundaries of distribution and communications has contributed to problems in accurately defining the term.